Category Archives: Partnerships

Award-winning photo shows MSU Extension collaboration

MSU Extension staff member holds a plant in a garden box as small child touches it.

The mother of this child in the award-winning photo shared, “I love when my child and I can get our hands dirty together.” Photo submitted by Kendra Gibson.

A photo submitted by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education instructor Kendra Gibson titled “Exploration!” received third place in the category of “Gratitude” in the Food Policy Networks 2017 Photo Contest hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The photo of Kendra and a child symbolizes the link between MSU Extension and the Lake County Community Food Council: community-driven collaboration. MSU Extension has helped the council with capacity building and community development, based on the community’s goals and needs.

The child in the photo is exploring a garden box constructed and distributed to families by the council. The council has constructed and distributed almost 600 garden boxes in the past two years in the rural county they serve. Council volunteers have worked side by side with families sharing how to start small gardens regardless of where they live. This is reflected in the photo. The funds from the award will go to the council to support its ongoing work in service to the community. Congratulation to Kendra and the Lake County Community Food Council!

For more information about this collaboration, check out the following video that highlights the MSU Extension and Lake County Community Food Council collaboration:

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Filed under Awards, Gardening, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

Grandparents University: Why it’s important and how you can get involved

Have you heard about Grandparents University? It is the largest intergenerational program in the nation, Michigan State University (MSU) alumni are invited to bring their grandchildren to campus for a three-day summer camp where they choose from almost 200 sessions. Each year, Grandparents University serves over 1,300 guests. This year, 632 adults and 678 youth participated in the program, which took place June 27–29.

Grandparents University is an important collaboration and MSU Extension has been involved since the beginning. Grandparents University started 12 years ago when Kathryn Reed, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni relations director, and Mike Steger, former MSU College of Natural Science faculty member, learned about the program from Oklahoma State University.

“It began because it was a great way to showcase majors and bring alumni back to campus,” Kathryn said. “Extension helped bring in meaningful programming since the beginning.”

This year, we had five colleagues from MSU Extension host sessions, and here are their experiences:

2017 was the sixth year the MSU Beef Cattle Teaching & Research Center participated in Grandparents University. Daniel Buskirk, MSU associate professor and beef Extension specialist, led the session on beef cattle.

“We begin with an ‘entrance exam’ and then explore the MSU Beef Center in search of answers,” Daniel said. “The kids love learning about what cows eat, what a bull weighs and seeing young calves. The grandparents like learning about the science involved in beef production, animal care and the origin of beef cuts.”

Georgia Peterson, MSU Extension specialist, took students to MSU’s Sanford Natural Area, located along the Red Cedar River for her Exploring Our Forests session.

“We discussed the most common tree species found there, along with other plants and animals that call it home,” Georgia said. “As we walked the trails of this forest, the kids were especially interested in finding plants (including trees) that have special features, like the sassafras with its ‘mitten’ leaves and fragrant stems.”

Laurie Rivetto, MSU Extension educator, led two sessions of Spartan Dollars and Cents where 28 youth and 24 grandparents engaged in several activities such as Needs vs. Wants, the Allowance Game and M&M Budgeting. At the end of each 90-minute session, youth created a Spend/Save/Share/Invest bank.

“It was a great group, and youth and adults commented on how interactive and fun the sessions were and how much they learned,” Laurie said. “The program really encouraged conversation between the grandparents and youth. The participants were involved in engaging in a needs and wants continuum where they stand on a line based on how much they feel an item is a need or a want. Having two different generations participate leads to some different perspectives on what needs and wants are.”

Visit the Grandparents University website to see the recap video from 2017 that features Laurie’s Needs vs. Wants activity toward the end of the video.

Michelle Neff, MSU Extension educator, has been involved with Grandparents University for the past three years. This year, she led a new yoga and mindfulness session for youth and grandparents.

“I really enjoy teaching this audience because the grandparents and students are very eager to learn. It is also cool to see youth and adults come from all over the country and state to attend this event,” said Michelle.

Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension specialist, shared that during her Chocolate Culture and Creativity session, grandparents and grandchildren sample chocolates from around the world and make their own chocolate treats.

“Participants loved how hands-on and interactive it was. They also learn interesting facts and the science behind chocolate,” Dixie said. “For example, 200 cacao beans could once buy a turkey. During World War II, the Germans created an exploding, chocolate-covered, thin steel bomb, designed to blow up 7 seconds after a piece was broken off. People who eat chocolate one to three times per month live longer. The flowers of the cacao tree are only pollinated by tiny gnats.”

Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparents University as well as of the President’s Graduate Receptions, spoke to us about the importance of having Extension staff members host sessions.

“We love having new classes every year and we usually hope for 20 percent of classes that are new and different,” Amy said. “I’ve found that Extension has been amazing for us.”

Are you interested in hosting a few sessions at Grandparents University next year? The 2018 event is scheduled for June 26–28. The MSU Alumni Association will cover travel expenses for your participation and will also provide $10 per participant for supplies for your session. If you have any questions or want to learn more about hosting sessions, contact Amy at

Don’t need any more information and are ready to sign up? Visit the Grandparents University Instructor Registration page.

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Filed under Children and Youth, Partnerships

Rich connections in District 14 affect students throughout the state

We asked Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Sea Grant educator, to share with us about a strategic connection he has made that has strengthened his impact. Brandon’s current programming efforts involve fisheries science, biodiversity conservation, sustainable coastal tourism and Great Lakes education: working with coastal communities in northeastern Michigan to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues locally.

“I value my Extension role in making connections and building relationships, and believe it’s an important role we play in our communities,” Brandon said.

Our questions and Brandon’s answers follow:

Will you tell us about a strategic connection you’ve made?

One successful educational partnership I’d like to highlight is with the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) and our leadership for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network. These relationships reflect rich connections made between schools and educators across northeastern Michigan – and the entire state – as well as fostering greater school-community partnerships. This place-based stewardship education initiative seeks to engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship projects that make a difference in the community – and so youth also are connected as community partners.

How did you go about making the connection and building relationships?

  • Seeking organizational partners, building personal relationships: Early on, we identified an opportunity (with funding) to partner with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and an emerging statewide GLSI network. With this in mind, we sought out and met regularly to recruit potential school and community partners who had mutual interests in connecting Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship with school learning opportunities.
  • Networking in regional meetings to foster relationships: In 2006, collaborating with 4-H colleagues, we hosted and facilitated the first of many regional networking meetings inviting school and community partners who had much to contribute and to gain in this Great Lakes and natural resource education conversation. This was an educational workshop also designed to serve a networking function by facilitating relationship-building and resource sharing among schools and partners. Conversations sparked during our first regional networking meeting, now an annual tradition, became the foundation for the NEMIGLSI partnership.
  • Facilitating an engaged leadership team: A regional leadership team for the NEMIGLSI was established and helped launched the initiative. This regional team still meets regularly to coordinate our educational efforts, provide shared leadership in implementing activities and collaborate around new opportunities (and securing new resources) for our growing NEMIGLSI network. Our leadership team is more than an advisory group; they are active contributors and beneficiaries in this joint programming.
  • Sharing investment, sharing successes: Leadership team partner organizations – community, school and teacher advisors – contribute significant time, expertise and resources toward NEMIGLSI network goals. In trade, we work to ensure that network programming and successes align with their own goals and educational initiatives.

What has been the outcome of this connection and how has it influenced your work and your district?

Our NEMIGLSI network and partnership is successfully fostering a growing place-based education culture in northeastern Michigan. Since 2009, more than 19,000 students (around 20 percent of student population annually) have engaged as Great Lakes stewards and valued community leaders through NEMIGLSI. This initiative has supported more than 35 schools (290 educators) from eight counties in professional development, community partners connections and stewardship project support. Numerous NEMIGLSI student projects have directly benefited Sea Grant and partner priorities helping to conserve Lake Huron’s biodiversity, map threatened and endangered species habitat, restore native fisheries, monitor water quality and vernal pool wetlands, manage invasive species, enhance aquatic habitat, investigate marine debris and more. A published program evaluation found that students value their learning experiences as hands-on and engaging, community connected, career oriented and fun. Perhaps most exciting is that students are serving as valued community and conservation partners today – and perhaps even more in their future!

Schroeder stands in the pond with three boys and is explaining the monitoring device in the water.

Schroeder engages students in wetland ecology: invasive phragmites monitoring.

Schroeder and a boy and a girl hold up a large net to do fisheries sampling.

Schroeder fisheries sampling with students during 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp

What have you learned (personally or professionally) from this connection?

  • Embrace the power in partnerships! We can all cover more ground more efficiently and effectively, and achieve deeper, richer impacts as a result of collaborative programming. Relationships and connections (or partnerships) are both organizational AND personal. They demand significant time, energy and a bit of patience to foster, and require ongoing attention, commitment and care.
  • Relationships and partner connections are equally important to our science or technical content expertise, and the educational processes and methods we use to deliver this content in communities.
  • In Extension, I have found the most vibrant and exciting projects to be at the intersections of stakeholders and opportunities that wouldn’t normally (or as regularly) cross paths. For example, connecting schools, educators and youth with Great Lakes scientists or community development partners. Many times I find that community expertise, ideas and resources abound once we have simply helped open a door for networking and relationship-building.

Thanks again to Brandon for taking time to share with us about his strategic connections. One of our great strengths in Extension is our ability to bring people, organizations and resources together to make a profound impact on our state. Each month, I’ve shared a story from each district highlighting strategic connections our colleagues have made in hopes that it will inspire all of us to reach out.

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Filed under 4-H, Conservation, Impacts, Invasive species, Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections

20+ year Extension partnership gears up for National Immunization Awareness Month

dna strands

As we count down to August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month, we reached out to  Dawn Contreras and Connie DeMars to highlight an important partnership and program serving Michigan medical professionals and residents. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began a partnership in 1995 as the result of a statewide need for tools and training to help raise Michigan’s immunization rate and promote better health among all residents. We formed the Physician Peer Education Program on Immunization that provides medical updates relevant to immunizations to practicing physicians and medical groups. Through this program, we provide updates on pediatrics; adult immunizations; vaccines for women’s health, influenza and HPV; and recommendations for health care personnel. All are valid for Continuing Medical Education credit.

“Since October 1 of last year, we have organized almost 70 presentations reaching over 2,000 medical professionals to answer questions,” Connie said. “Our audience has included many aspects, from hospitals to the automotive industry.”

How can we help? Connie shared that we can all help to promote our upcoming, one-hour Pediatric and Adult Influenza webinar on August 30, designed for medical professionals. It will discuss influenza rates, surveillance and coverage levels, and recommendations. It will identify strategies to improve vaccination rates. I’ve linked to the PDF of the webinar’s promotional flyer to this post below so that you can download and disseminate it.

Flu Webinar Poster

“Getting all needed immunizations is an important element of good health for many people,” Dawn said. We are honored to be a partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on this long-standing program geared toward protecting the lives of Michigan residents.”

To find out more, visit our website or contact Connie at

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Filed under health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

Recognize your colleagues and partners through award nominations

Photo of hands on top of one another in a team huddle with the text overtop of the hands that reads, "Recognize your colleagues and partners."

Who is the first person or group who comes to mind when you think about outstanding work and meaningful impact? Do you have someone or a group in mind? Good. We’ve got plenty of ways to recognize them at our annual Fall Extension Conference. I know you’ve seen the emails about how to nominate a person or group, but I wanted to take a minute to talk about the “why” behind the awards. Results of a survey of members of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources in the U.S. and Canada show that employee recognition is a powerful and important tool in creating a thriving climate within an organization. When we take time to value and recognize each other, it creates a foundation for collaboration, gratitude and innovation. We believe that it’s also an essential organizational practice to recognize partners who have played influential roles in our strategic initiatives. This is our way to give back to them and recognize all that they have done for us. Gratitude is key to relationship building.

One more thing I wanted to mention about award nominations – you don’t have to work on it alone. There are several questions that need thorough answers so that the committee can fully understand the breadth of the nominee’s impact, so teaming up and splitting up the work can produce a great result.

Last of all – just a friendly reminder about deadlines. Please send a quick email to to let us know whom you’re nominating and a sentence about why by the end of today. Miss the deadline? That’s okay, send us your idea anyway. As long as your nomination is turned in by June 1, the awards committee will be able to consider it. Happy nominating!

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Filed under Awards, Fall Extension Conference, Partnerships

MSU CEC Team treated like rock stars in Nebraska

Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, and Frank Gublo pose for a photo in front the Loop Brewing Co. brick building.

MSU Extension Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) From left to right: Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, Frank Gublo. Photo courtesy of Andy Hayes.

This week, we’ll hear from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Andy Hayes sharing about the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) Team’s experiences in Nebraska:

Our MSU Extension CEC Team traveled to McCook, Nebraska, to participate in the state’s first CEC conference. Patterning their conference after our successful Michigan model, the Nebraska Extension team added their own flair and expertise and created an outstanding entrepreneurship conference.

MSU Extension team members Frank Gublo, Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Micah Loucks, Khurram Imam and I traveled to the conference and also gave breakout session presentations on a variety of entrepreneurship topics.

Approximately 80 people from 40 Nebraska communities participated. After hearing excellent keynote speakers in the local restored vintage movie theatre, participants attended breakouts around town in a wide range of businesses such as shoe stores, coffee shops, antique furniture stores and jewelry stores.

Nebraska Extension team members were so appreciative of the multi-state partnership between Michigan and Nebraska and our coaching and guidance; and participants were grateful that we traveled all that way to attend and participate; we truly felt like rock stars. And McCook is a cool town – the perfect setting for the team’s first conference.

Some of us even ventured out to the plateau at 5:30 a.m. to watch the mating dance of the prairie chickens. (Honest, you can’t make this stuff up!) It was seriously cool, and the scenery while watching the prairie wake up with the sunrise would make anyone want to live there.

While en route, we picked up a traveling companion from the University of Minnesota Extension, which made the trip even better. We ate beef in a local restaurant in York, Nebraska, and had time to tour the Food Innovation Center on the Nebraska Campus. All were truly impressive.

A great trip, and what makes it even more perfect is that we probably learned way more from our partners in Nebraska than they did from us.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing the stories from your trip. We’re thrilled about the positive impact that you and everyone on the CEC Team are having on the people of Michigan, and we’re proud that your ideas are spreading nationally.

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Filed under Conferences, Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Partnerships, professional development

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications